Michigan's Most Misidentified Mushroom

In my opinion, turkey tail (Trametes versicolor) is the most misapplied fungus name on iNaturalist. At one point, it was almost as commonly observed as Polyporus squamosus, the top observed species in Michigan. As I identified these observations (i.e., called the majority of things Trametes sp., Polyporales, or Agaricomycetes), I was convinced that a quick reference – or at least strong words of caution - were needed to bring enlightenment to this fowl situation.

Trametes constitutes a genus of thin, polyporoid fungi, typically with concentric zones of color and fuzziness. While everything gets labelled as T. versicolor, there are actually 18 species in North America, and an estimated 50 species globally (Justo and Hibbett, 2011)! In northeastern North America, MushroomExpert.Com (Kuo, 2017) discusses six common Trametes species:

  • Trametes elegans
  • Trametes hirsuta
  • Trametes ochracea
  • Trametes pubescens
  • Trametes versicolor
  • Trametes villosa

Justo and Hibbett (2011) include four species in the T. versicolor group (supposedly ones that are closely related and also easily misidentified as one another): three that are showcased by Michael Kuo, T. ochracea, T. pubescens, and T. versicolor, as well as a fourth that he does not mention, T. ectypa. All require closer attention to detail for a positive identification than is typically reserved for polypores, specifically characteristics such as pores per mm and cap fuzziness. It is made all the more challenging when — true to its name — T. versicolor is so versatile in its coloration.

Beyond Trametes, a whole suite of genera appear similar to turkey tail without close inspection, which unfortunately is the norm for polypore observations on iNaturalist rather than the exception. These include species in the crust genus Stereum (in the order Russulales!) as well as other polypore genera such as Cerrena, Coriolopsis, and Daedaleopsis. If you need more convincing that T. versicolor identification is not cut and dried, do a quick Google search for Coriolopsis - from the top, these look a whole lot like T. versicolor!

When you are looking to identify a turkey tail mushroom, for starters check out the Trametes versicolor key at MushroomExeprt.Com. Next time you spot a specimen in this truly common but wholly taxonomically misapplied group, take a few more moments to appreciate and photograph those small details, especially the pore surface.


Justo, A., & Hibbett, D. S. (2011). Phylogenetic classification of Trametes (Basidiomycota, Polyporales) based on a five-marker dataset. Taxon, 60(6), 1567–1583. https://doi.org/10.1002/tax.606003

Kuo, M. (2017, November). Trametes versicolor. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/trametes_versicolor.html

Posted by aldendirks aldendirks, July 09, 2019 04:59



That's very interesting! I think some of the fault lies in the desire to trust the autogenerated suggestion for an ID, which doesn't always take the little details like location into account. I'll be sure to pay more attention in the future

Posted by rayquazasaur about 1 year ago (Flag)

Yes, these are actually hard to identify, either by artificial intelligence or human intelligence! Thanks @rayquazasaur !

Posted by aldendirks about 1 year ago (Flag)

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